Postpartum Education and Support

I was very excited. My husband and I were looking forward to becoming parents and about 24 hours after giving birth to my son, that joy that every mother says you’re supposed to feel quickly faded for me. I began to feel disconnected. I felt very saddened, I felt withdrawn, I felt devastated. I knew that it was more than the baby blues. I did not want to bond with my son. I felt defeated. I felt as if I had let my husband down, as if I had let myself down, had let my son down. After being on such a tremendous high, I found it very difficult to tell people that I was struggling to be a mom. I was ashamed. I remember my husband walking out of our home on many occasions to go to work and he would hold my hand and I would cry uncontrollably because I did not want him to leave. I was scared. I just could not find the strength to find normalcy again. I struggled and I struggled in silence. I remember returning back to my corporate job and traveling, being on a plane on one occasion thinking, God if we crash I wouldn’t have to go back. I wouldn’t have to go back and be a mom. One morning, Mae, my daughter, was about six weeks old, I was about six weeks postpartum, and I just remember laying on the couch and I called my sister and I said I think I might die. Not that I wanted to die and i just said I haven’t eaten in over a day and I haven’t slept in over a day and I don’t know what to do. You know, just kind of totally helpless and kind of paralyzed. I think before I thought of panic attacks as just something mental, like you’re having worried thoughts but it takes over your whole body. I remember my body just feeling tingly and numb and feeling paralyzed. So I would try to sleep and then I would wake up after 15 minutes in the middle of sleeping with a panic attack. Just thoughts of dread, not wanting to be alone with the baby. Thinking you know things you don’t want to say out loud but thinking I made a terrible mistake, I can’t do this. Even though I have been a mom for years and I knew that it roller coasters I had never experienced this. I had never experienced sadness in this way. I remember nursing Misha and just crying and my tears just falling on her every day for months. For me there was a lot of shame in admitting it to anyone outside of a very small safe circle because even then, those people that love me so much, even then whether it was really happening or I imagined it I had this feeling from them like you know why is it so hard to be happy? I was convinced that I would never get out of that feeling inside myself again and be able to just be in a space and feel comfortable. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drive. I literally was running around in circles trying to figure out what was going on. I found that people thought if I just prayed my way out of it that I would get better. I found that people thought my faith was weak. I found that people couldn’t truly understand. I remember looking back at text messages that I literally cried out for help and I would receive responses like it’s going to be okay, motherhood is tough. People really could not wrap their mind around the fact that someone who was so strong and appeared to have it all together on the outside. I literally wanted to die. I felt weak. I felt like my friends and other moms are not talking about this. They can do this, why can’t I? I had a family member who at one point who said to me, you should just put your big girl panties on and deal with it. Like you should be strong enough to do this. I think that’s the hardest part sometimes is finding friends or family to talk to about maternal mental health issues. A lot of people want to help but they may not understand or they may offer advice that isn’t practical or could actually be hurtful and so having a group of other moms who are experiencing the same thing and who can offer empathy as well as guidance I think is really important. I had started attending group meetings with Moms supporting Moms. The first meeting I went to I really couldn’t talk. I basically just sat in a chair and cried the whole time and I remember someone saying to me, you’re here, you made it and that is enough for this week. And every time I went to a meeting afterward I felt a little bit stronger. Hearing people’s stories made me realize that there is life on the other side. I’ve really made it my mission to let mothers know – particularly mothers of color – because we have such a culture of staying strong and I want mom to know if they’re struggling they’re not alone. It doesn’t matter how strong your faith is because we’re not immune to postpartum depression or other maternal mental illnesses. They must fight, we all must fight together. Find a community, find a strong support system, so that recovery can be possible and it is possible. you

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